Tuesday, August 25, 2020

(M:tAs) Forged By Dragon's Fire

My notes for this book are dull as hell. They can be divided into three categories: 1)Magic items I liked. 2)Nitpicks about the Mage: the Ascension magic item creation rules. 3)Sarcastic comments about the gratuitous sexualization of women in the book's art.

So here's an example of each:

I thought Spratt and Dabbet's Lighter-Than-Air-Masticated Conveyance Gel was a really cute idea. It's bubble gum that lets you blow giant, puncture-resistant, helium-filled bubbles capable of lifting you off the ground like a balloon. It's whimsical and almost overly precious, and it would break my heart to slap it down with Paradox. Mage, as a fantasy game about mages in the modern world, can sometimes suffer from overly focusing on mages and trying to conform to the modern world. The absolute best use for something like half of the items in this book would be as curios in a strange old shop that wound up in the hands of naive Sleepers who subsequently have their lives absolutely wrecked by them.

(Scene: The jaded older brother says, "Whoa, I've never seen this brand of gum before." The timid and sensitive younger brother says, "It looks like it's really old." Older brother: "If I buy it, you have to chew a piece. You can't say no because it's a dare." And then the inevitable takes its course.)

As far as rules nitpicks - making a magic item of any strength requires a significant conjunctional Prime Sphere, but none of the "artificer" factions grant Prime as a favored Sphere. The Sons of Ether, Iteration X, and House Verditius all get Matter. Given the metaphysics of the setting, building magical devices should probably just be an alternate spellcasting mechanic. It's always been a little awkward that if Professor Thunder wants to build a Lightning Gun, he has to choose between the gun being an inert prop that disguises his Forces spells or investing in a huge character point tax that will still yield an item you have to be a mage to use. It doesn't take enlightenment to pull a trigger, people. Just own it.

Finally, it is nearly impossible for me to accurately convey what is going on with Penny Dreadful's outfit at the beginning of the Familiars chapter. It's like this peekaboo vinyl netting over panties and a bustier with goth accents and thigh-high doc martins, and honestly, I feel like a pervert for even describing it. There's likely a whole ream of political subtext I could unpack about White Wolf depicting one of their most prominent female signature characters in specialty fetish gear, but hell, I'm a total nerd. If that was just the way club kids dressed back in the early 2000s, I'd have no way of knowing about it. Nonetheless, it serves an object lesson for writers - be careful about creating a character you clearly want to fuck. There's a very good chance it's going to go to some weird places sooner or later.

Overall, I really like this book. Magic item books are nearly impossible to do poorly, and Forged By Dragon's Fire continues that trend. It was at its best when it was being specific, rather than general (i.e. "The Orb of Honorious" vs "Robes of Blessing"), but it was pretty solid from start to finish. 

Ukss Contribution: Now, let me completely contradict what I said about specific vs generic by singling out a generic magic item as my single favorite thing - shapeshifter tattoos. Get an animal tattooed onto your body with secret occult techniques and forever after you'll be able to shapeshift into that animal. It's versatile, it's visually interesting, and it can easily serve as the defining trait of villain and PC alike.

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